"Legacy" - it could mean:
1. an old operating system
2. the frat boys and sorority sisters to whom I delivered pizza while I was in college
3. an inheritance from crazy Aunt Millie that nobody knew she had
4. all of the above
Legacy often conjures visions of easy street. However, leaving a legacy can also be the act of providing for your church, synagogue or other charity or worthy cause, a gift that will keep giving long after you're in a better place (that's our firm belief, check out our mission statement for where we stand - but I digress...).
So how can you leave a legacy? The topic is much too complex to fully address in a blog post, but here are a few ways:
Bequests in your will - Many clients who tithe (give a tenth of their income or assets to charity) will also tithe from their estate, but these institutions can use any amount, great or small. A bequest of a specific amount in your will is an easy way to provide a legacy.
Charitable Remainder Trusts - a more complex way to provide a legacy, but in simplified terms, it's a vehicle for you to keep the benefit of whatever asset you place in the trust while you're alive (think interest on a sum of money), and give what's left to a named charity when you (or the second of you and your spouse) die. It doesn't have to be your whole estate, you can pick an amount, with some of your money going to charity and the rest to your heirs through your will or other mechanism.
Insurance Policies - If you're more mature ("nearer to death" sounds so negative!), you might consider taking out a life insurance policy that names your charity as the beneficiary. Talk with a good life insurance agent about the best way to structure this, but it may get more expensive than you really want to undertake to pay the premiums over the long term.
Pay-On-Death Accounts - say you got a windfall of some sort: inheritance, settlement, cash-out of equity, that sort of thing. If you put that money in an account that allows you to name a beneficiary to get what's in the account on your death, you can name your charity as the beneficiary. This doesn't keep you from using the money while you're alive, it just provides for the charity to receive what's left of it when you die.
As you can see, there are a number of ways to benefit your favorite charity upon your death. Some of them have tax ramifications, some don't, and getting them properly set up is critical. Make sure you talk with an estate planning attorney as you make these decisions. Hey, maybe crazy Aunt Millie would appreciate you doing something with that inheritance!
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and based on Texas law. Every situation is different, so consult with an attorney before making your decision.